The first settlers of Peterborough were farmers who came in 1739. The center of the town at that point was what is called Old Street Road today, and it stayed that way for more than half a century. Around 1800 the center of activity in Peterborough shifted from Old Street Road down to the current center of town, at the confluence of the Contoocook and Nubanusit Rivers. At that time agriculture was in economic decline and textile mills were rapidly taking its place. Among the first mills in town was Samuel Mitchell's grist mill on the Nubanusit River at the intersection of today's Main and Elm Streets. Thomas Morison had a sawmill on the Contoocook near today's old bridge at Noone's falls. Mills were built along the Nubanusit between Grove and Elm Streets. The Bell Factory, the second cotton mill in New England, was built on River Street in 1810. Then in 1813 the Phoenix Factory was built on the present-day site of the Guernsey Professional Building, along with a mill for carding work in South Peterborough at Noone's Falls. The North Cotton Factory was built in North Village, where later the Wilder Thermometer Factory would be located. The Union Mill was built in West Peterborough in 1824. The construction of these factories and others in such a short time and their demand for workers had a profound effect on the town; many homes were built as a result. While most of these mills have disappeared over the years, Peterborough is proud of its heritage in this area.

Despite their mistrust of the Old World form of government, the settlers did fight in the King's army during the French and Indian Wars, losing more citizens per capita than in any subsequent conflict. When the Revolution came, they also served from the early battle at Bunker Hill, Peterborough's Old Street Road Cemetery is the final resting place of most of our Revolutionary War veterans, including William Diamond, the drummer boy of Lexington, who chose to move to Peterborough in 1795 and establish his family here among our hills.

The citizens of Peterborough next defended the Nation in the War of 1812. Peterborough's most noted contributor to the war effort was her native son, James Miller 1776-1858, the Hero of the Battle of Lundy's Lane. When asked to take this critical position, he is quoted as saying, “I'll try, Sir.” His heroism and success is remembered today by Miller State Park, New Hampshire's oldest state park, which overlooks the town he fought to preserve. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his introduction to The Scarlett Letter, described Miller as “New England's most distinguished soldier.

In the 1850's churches were opened to abolitionist speakers, such as Frederick Douglass, and many homes formed a link to the Underground Railroad. Many fought in the civil war. The statue in front of the old GAR Hall on Grove Street was erected to commemorate those who fought.

The Arts found fertile ground in the beauty of the region. With the establishment of the MacDowell Colony by Edward and Marian MaDowell, Peterborough came to have connections directly to Boston, New York, and the world. The MacDowell Colony is now America's largest artist colony whose centennial will be celebrated in 2007. Peterborough Players was established in 1933. In 1937 Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town while at his stay at MacDowell. This play was first shown at the Players, and Peterborough is blessed to have James Whitmore performs in the play each year.

There is a historical society in town as well as many art museums and shops. There are parks and schools, and town-owned lands. There are beautiful views, lakes, hills and valleys. There are major travel routes that intersect the town. There are State Parks. Peterborough is home to New Hampshire Ball Bearing, Peterborough Basket Factory, the Monadnock Community Hospital, Eastern Mountain Sports, RiverMead Retirement Community, Millard Group, SDE, Harborside, and many others. But the most important asset of Peterborough, above all of this, is the people who live here. They are the true gems. And they are what Peterborough is all about!

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